The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) governs minimum wage and overtime, as well as certain aspects of child labor and recordkeeping. As an employer, you must carefully comply with this law to avoid complaints and disputes surrounding areas like employee misclassification and wage-and-hour conflicts.
One topic that often generates confusion is breaks, specifically whether or not the FLSA requires you to provide them to your workers.
Pennsylvania employers do not have to provide breaks to adult workers
The FLSA has no provision that forces you to give your employees breaks. State law therefore generally takes precedence with regard to them, but Pennsylvania law also has no such requirement for adults (age 18 and older). However, if you employ minors (ages 14 to 17), you must grant them half-hour-long breaks between every five consecutive work hours.
Offering breaks introduces a requirement
Even though federal and state laws do not mandate breaks, if you allow workers to have ones that are less than 20 minutes long, you must count them as worked hours. This means that you must pay your workers for these breaks, including smoke, restroom and beverage retrieval breaks. Failing to do so opens you up to potential complaints. This is a specification under both state and federal law. If your workers go beyond the time you specify they may have for their breaks, you do not have to pay them for the extra time. It is important to inform workers that unauthorized extension of breaks is against your policy.
By remaining aware of requirements under the FLSA and state law and proactively meeting them, you may lower the chances of becoming involved in a legal dispute. If you find yourself embroiled in one, the aid of an employment law lawyer can help you resolve it faster and more efficiently.